Welcome to the 17th ever edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race in the Perspective of Chase’, an almost daily article on your favorite NFL team. We have broken down some bad teams so far. The Jets. The Jaguars. The Giants. But this team is historically, probably, the worst organization in the Super Bowl era! Since 1967, the Browns have made the playoffs eleven times. The Jets have made it 13 times and won a Super Bowl. And the Jaguars made it seven times but have only been around since 1995. The Browns are on a whole other level of bad. And even though they traded for Deshaun Watson, they still aren’t going to be good. The Browns stupidity continued! What can the Cleveland Browns now do this season? Lets, get into this!
Before we do I would like to let you know that we are doing something very similar to this on the Cool Sports Newsletter for the NBA if you want to check that out. While you’re there you may as well check out or NFL position rankings that will be out by the end of the season. So far we have ranked the top ten wide receivers and top ten running backs is coming out soon!
The Browns have had a lot of hype ever since they drafted Baker Mayfield #1 overall. The season before they drafted their “savior” first overall, Cleveland had gotten worse than their 1-15 record in 2016, by going 0-16 in 2017! But then after having back-to-back #1 overall picks (Myles Garrett in the 2017 draft), Cleveland decided to make other moves to build around Mayfield. They drafted Denzel Ward 4th overall, Nick Chubb in the 2nd round and traded a 4th round pick in 2018 and 7th round pick in 2019 for Jarvis Landry! Landry had led the league in receptions the previous season and had back-to-back 1100 yard receiving seasons the two years before 2017. They improved their record up to 7-8-1, and were competitive with teams like Pittsburgh and Oakland, and split with #4 seeded Baltimore.
The 2019 offseason was when this team had Super Bowl aspirations. They saw that 2nd year quarterback Patrick Mahomes won an MVP with 50 passing touchdowns in his second season, when he was given to the keys to a very talented offense. They signed Kareem Hunt and Odell Beckham Jr. Hunt, despite only coming off an 824 yard rushing season, he had 1,327 rushing yards in his rookie season in 2017, which led the NFL! He had massive potential to have a season like that again. With Pro Bowl rookie Denzel Ward just continuing to develop, and a predicted breakout season from Chubb after coming four yards shy of 1,000 yards as a rookie, the sports illustrated cover for the NFL season were Super Bowl contenders! But that didn’t work out. Chubb had nearly 1,500 rushing yards, Hunt played average and just played eight games and despite Beckham and Landry going for 1,000 and 1100 receiving yards respectively, Mayfield’s 534 pass attempts and 21 interceptions held them back! The Browns went just 6-10, and finished 3rd in the AFC North in a division with a non-Big Ben Pittsburgh.
So going into 2020, there was really nothing to point at and say “Cleveland will have success”. But despite this, they did! The Browns surprised everyone, Mayfield threw 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, Landry and Beckham played well, Chubb did his thing, Hunt had his best season yet as a Brown, Ward played at a Pro Bowl caliber level, offensive lineman Joel Bitonio made the Pro Bowl for the 3rd straight season, and Cleveland, who despite finishing 3rd in the division, made the playoffs with an 11-5 record. Cleveland was able to beat a once undefeated but struggling Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field, before facing off in Kansas City to play the reigning Super Bowl champs. However, that is where their run came to an end. They played competitive, but a 14-2 Chiefs team was too dominant for any AFC team, as they ended up playing Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. They had a very competitive year, and had promise to contend in future seasons.
In 2021, they had massive potential after a breakout year. 12-5? 13-4? That is what people were predicting for the Cleveland Browns. But, the tides began to turn, as they finished 8-9 and tied for last in the AFC North. Mayfield struggled again, Beckham wanted out and ended up leaving for the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams, Hunt wasn’t the same, Chubb got hurt and the defense also just wasn’t the same. But with an inconsistent Mayfield, they began to question whether they had the right core intact. With other quarterbacks and wide receivers on the market beginning to impress Cleveland, they were looking to make major moves in the offseason!
As crazy as it sounds, a 4-13 Houston Texans were one of the most talked about teams in the National Football League. How? Two words: Deshaun Watson. After leading the NFL in passing yards, Watson had wanted out of Houston after they stupidly traded DeAndre Hopkins for David Johnson. He wasn’t going to win and he wanted to be on a winning team. But once 20+ women had accused him of sexual assault, the question wasn’t what team he would be on. The question was if he would still be in the league. Watson sat out the 2021 season in Houston with question marks surrounding him on and off the field. But in the offseason, it was reported that they would find out if he was guilty or innocent of these claims. Once they ruled him innocent, he was back on the market, and the Browns took advantage of it!
Before making a push for Watson, Cleveland decided to release veteran WR Jarvis Landry. To replace him, Cleveland traded 2022 5th and 6th round picks in exchange for 4x Pro Bowl wide receiver, Amari Cooper. He has been regressing over the past two seasons, which is why his value was so low, but he still is a very talented receiver if he has a good quarterback. They also traded Mack Wilson to New England for Chase Winovich and signed Jakeem Grant. However, they did lose a lot of receivers. Landry and Beckham as I mentioned, but also Austin Hooper and Rashard Higgins. So they aren’t as deep at wide receiver and tight end. But who was going to be their quarterback was the question. Well, they decided.
Cleveland traded a 2022 1st round pick, 2023 1st round pick, 2023 third round pick, 2024 1st round pick and 2024 4th round pick in exchange for Deshaun Watson! They also gave him a fully guaranteed five year, $230 million contract, one of the highest paid in the league. They did this also while he wasn’t even fully out of his sexual assault accusations and could have possibly been suspended, not to mention that he hadn’t played football in way over a year. And they still had Baker Mayfield on the roster! Good news, they were able to trade Baker to Carolina for a conditional 2024 draft pick. So the #1 overall Baker Mayfield experiment didn’t quite work out. But they got a new quarterback. But was the risk worth it?
On top of so many questions still surrounding Watson and a possible suspension and questioning Cleveland’s decision making of the deal, Kareem Hunt demanded a trade. Even though he has not been the same since his surprising 3rd round pick rookie season, he still is very productive in the receiving game and in the running game when he gets the ball (if they distribute the ball between both Chubb and Hunt). He’s a valuable asset.
I know, we couldn’t go one paragraph without talking about Deshaun Watson. Despite being ruled innocent, a judge made a claim to suspend Watson for their first six games of the season! While this seems like such a loss, it actually isn’t that bad, since their first six games are against the Panthers, Jets, Steelers, Falcons, Chargers and Patriots. So 3-3 or 4-2 isn’t unrealistic with or without Watson! They can still contend! Well, that was until the NFL increased the suspension up to 11 games. Now, this puts them in a very tough spot. First of all, no one really knows why Watson is being suspended if he was ruled innocent but knowing that there is something else we don’t know about, this suspension could expand. But as serious as it is, they’re going to play the Houston Texans in Houston for Deshaun’s 1st of game of the season. And expect a lot of boo’s in that building.
Of course, going back to Hunt, the obvious thing seems to be to trade Hunt for Jimmy Garoppolo and picks, as he would play QB for the first eleven games before Watson comes back, and then his contract will expire. However, that deal just won’t get done as much as it makes sense. Cleveland will role with Jacoby Brissett and Josh Rosen as their two quarterbacks for Watson’s suspended stretch. Hunt will probably stay on the team. And with Watson suspended, I see a 7-10 Browns team, panicking once again going into the offseason!
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